Unpaid internships can be beneficial

Handshake and the Career and Talent Development Department are some resources students at FIU can access for help with internships.

Gabriella Pinos/Assistant Entertainment Director

Students recoil in disgust when they hear its name. They run away when hear talk of it pop up in career fairs. And, during the best of interviews, it rears its ugly head to scare and repulse the most eligible of candidates.

It’s every college senior’s worse nightmare, the unpaid internship.

At their core, internships are a form of “experiential learning” where students can apply what they learn in the classroom to a professional setting. Paid or unpaid, interns gain hands-on experience out of the work they perform while benefiting their employers, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Because of this, unpaid internships can get messy, as employers have been known to take advantage of their hires in the past.

In 2010, two interns filed a lawsuit against Fox Searchlight Pictures, an American film production company, for failing to compensate them for their work and making them do tasks with little educational value, according to the Guardian. The suit ruled in the students’ favor in 2013.

Later in 2013, Condé Nast, an American mass media company that owns publications such as Vogue and The New Yorker, shut down their internship program in 2013 after two former unpaid interns filed a lawsuit against the company. The interns, who worked at The New Yorker and W magazine, claimed that they were not properly compensated for working long hours, according to Forbes.

It’s not surprising to see these large companies take advantage of the bright, young individuals who dream of making it at the top. Even after the U.S. Department of Labor developed a “primary beneficiary” test, which was updated January 2018, to determine if a hire can be considered an unpaid intern, corruption is still alive and well in the business world.

That’s not to say, however, that students should stay away from unpaid internships altogether.

As someone who has and is currently in an unpaid internship, the skills and connections you gain from the experience can be invaluable. Immersing yourself in your career while obtaining hands-on experience not only helps with professional development, it allows students to see if they want to continue down that career path.

It’s also important to note that, at least for mass media or communication majors like myself, South Florida is an extremely saturated market. Getting a job outside of college is hard enough as it is; combine that with the difficulty of getting a job in journalism and broadcasting, and the task becomes almost impossible.

Unpaid internships are simply inevitable in many fields, so getting as much experience as possible in college will make a world of a difference once you enter the workforce. Even if you don’t get paid for the work you do, experience is experience.

And even if you feel as though unpaid internships are a waste of time, you at least get to learn a few things about yourself along the way. Finding something outside of your field isn’t anything to be ashamed of either; wherever it might be, you will get something out of doing hands-on work, guaranteed. The resources available at FIU, such as Handshake and career fairs, have been a great help in allowing me to make that next step into the unknown.

So, next time that internship application is giving you that sick feeling in your stomach, remember that getting knowledge and experience in the real world can be worth millions in your future.

Featured image by Gabriella Pinos.

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